Rachel Fieldhouse


“We were never, ever, ever, going to make it”: White Island survivor shares common question she is asked

“We were never, ever, ever, going to make it”: White Island survivor shares common question she is asked

A survivor of the 2019 Whakaari White Island volcano eruption has spoken about one common question she still receives, two years after the tragedy that took her father and sister from her.

Stephanie Browitt, her 21-year-old sister Krystal, and their dad Paul were on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship visiting the island when it erupted on December 9.

Of the 47 people visiting the island that day, 22 died and 25 - including Stephanie - were severely injured. 

After spending six months in hospital receiving treatment for burns affecting 70 percent of her body, Stephanie has shared her recovery process openly on social media.

In a recent video she shared on TikTok, Stephanie reflected on the most common questions she is asked - including why she, her family, and other victims “couldn’t jump in the water if it’s an island” during the eruption.

Stephanie Browitt has taken to TikTok to explain why she and her family couldn’t escape the volcanic eruption that day. Image: TikTok

“Well as you can see, that’s us, circled, on the island that day, at 2.10pm. And the walls are extremely high up, and we are surrounded by rock,” she explained, with an image of the scene of where she and her family had been standing.

“We’re nowhere near the jetty, and nowhere near the ocean. We are as inland as you can get and under 140 metres from the crater.

“So my family and I were at the back of that line, and it was only about a two-minute walk, we had only just started walking back to the jetty.”

She then showed what the same spot looked like just seconds later. 

Up to a minute after the first photo was taken, Stephanie explains that the island was ‘consumed’ by ash. Image: TikTok

“This is the same camera only 40 seconds to a minute apart, and as you can see the island was already engulfed in ash and dust,” she said.

“So we were never, ever, ever going to make it to water. There was literally no chance for the group of 21 people I was with.”

Browitt marked the second anniversary of the disaster in December last year, writing that she had “very mixed emotions” about the event which had “ripped” her family apart.

“Today’s not only the day I survived the unimaginable, it’s the day I lost my dad, Paul and sister, Krystall. It’s the day that they were taken from us,” she wrote in a candid, lengthy post on Instagram.

“My accomplishments mean nothing to me knowing they aren’t shared with my sister and dad by my side. Every day I question why we couldn’t have gone through this extremely hard journey together, why they couldn’t be here also.”

“Today marks two years of accomplishments but also loss, pain and never ending grief. I miss and yearn for my family every day.

“I love you so much dad and Krystal, so much it kills me.”

In 2020, 13 parties were charged with failings in relation to the disaster by WorkSafe. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Image: @stephaniecoral96 (Instagram/TikTok)